When I was a starry-eyed freshman in college, a senior I admired the heck out of confided to me, “I’ve never had a boyfriend. I’ve never even been on a date!” It was said in a whisper, like you couldn’t have a more shameful secret.
I filed it away in my memory and told myself, “I’m not getting out of here without a real relationship.” When somebody I didn’t know well asked me out, I said yes without even thinking — because I was absolutely not going to leave college without dating.
As you may have already guessed, it didn’t exactly end up being the best year of my life.
Still, patience is nobody’s favorite habit. Waiting to meet that unknown, all-important somebody — it’s not easy. You have no idea how long you’re going to have to wait, and it becomes hard to quiet that little voice that starts asking, “What if it never happens?”
If that voice is getting louder, and you’re getting discouraged, then listen up, because this is important.
You’re not incomplete
You’re not missing your “other half.” You are you, whether or not you have somebody to text with into the night. And you’re enough. Actually, people who consider themselves incomplete without their partner put a lot of unhealthy pressure on a relationship. You’ve basically made another human being responsible for the meaning and fulfillment in your life, and that’s kind of a lot to ask. Whatever else might change when you start dating, your value as a person does not suddenly double.
Nobody is going to show up and make you feel more confident, attractive, or worthy
Will a boyfriend remind you that you’re beautiful? Sure, I hope so. Will an admiring girlfriend help you feel more confident? Probably, yes. But if you’re expecting somebody else to walk into your life and totally change the way you see yourself, you’re going to be disappointed. No matter how intense the relationship is, that’s just not something another person can do. We supply our own confidence, our own self-esteem, our own sense of self-worth. If you don’t have all that, those insecurities just come into the relationship with you. If you already don’t believe you’re worth much, you’re not going to believe your partner when they say it. So don’t wait. Now’s a great time to start working on loving yourself.
Your life is meaningful just the way it is
If you’re still wondering what your life is going to look like, who you’ll meet, where you’ll end up, there’s nothing wrong with that. But your life right now is just as important and valuable and beautiful and real as your future life will be. You haven’t found your soulmate yet, but that doesn’t mean this part of your life is all about waiting. It’d be a pretty sad world where we could only be happy, only be truly alive, only be satisfied, when all the pieces of our lives had fallen into place. Just because you know you’ll be happy when you’ve found the one, doesn’t mean you can’t be happy now, too.
Everybody loses when impatience calls the shots
Interestingly, this mistake is popular enough that it shows up in a lot of pop songs. I’m thinking of Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” or more recently, Maroon 5’s “Love Somebody,” where Adam Levine sings, “I really want to love somebody / I really want to dance the night away.” The message is tempting. Anyone will do: you just need someone — anyone — who’s willing to love you and accept your love. The rest will take care of itself. The truth is, of course, that love is only love when it’s personal. Having “somebody to love” isn’t remotely the same thing as loving him, loving her, in all their unique and irreplaceable glory.
But you don’t really want just anyone to love. You want to fall in love with a person you can commit to for the long haul. You wouldn’t marry somebody just because you want to be a parent — so don’t date somebody just because you want to be important to somebody. If your dating choices aren’t profoundly personal, everyone’s going to suffer.
You’re not really in control here
Ask any couple you know, and they’ll have had that surreal conversation where they realize how many pieces had to be in place in order for them to meet. If the class he’d wanted to take wasn’t already filled up, if she hadn’t been at the party that day… there are an infinite amount of “ifs” that bring people together. The fact is, as much as we put ourselves out there, as carefully as we write up our dating site profiles, life is just a mystery. We can’t really control who we’ll meet, or when. Whatever happens, you can bet it’s going to be a surprise. So don’t be afraid to go looking for love — but don’t be frustrated, either. In the end, it’s not really up to you.